Use these six strategies to say "No" to a request for your time ... and make it stick:
1. Say "No" and then shut up. Don't always feel you must offer a detailed explanation. Sometimes, it's enough to simply say you're unavailable.
2. Show that it's not personal. If your reason for turning down the request will help the person understand, then explain. Example: "I'd love to run that errand for you, but I have to stay here to handle an important call that my boss is expecting."
3. Put a positive spin on it. Frame your reply as positively as possible, emphasizing what you will do instead of what you won't. Example: "I'll be happy to X, but Y is impossible today."
4. Offer an alternative. Help your colleague find a solution, even if it's not you. Example: "Mira might be able to help you with that."
5. Allow yourself time to consider. If your gut tells you to say "No" but your urge to be helpful pushes you toward "Yes," ask for time to think about it. Then, review your priorities and to-do list to determine which answer works best for you.
6. Stick to it. Much like children and pets, if your colleagues recognize that your "No" sometimes means "Maybe," they'll never take your refusals seriously. Waffling only encourages them to whine until they get what they want.